Hidar Tsion is the main Ethiopian Orthodox Christian festival in Axum. This is due to the believed existence of the Ark of the Covenant there. The celebration is on November 30th (December 1st in a leap year), Hidar 21 according to the Ethiopian calendar.
The Ark of the Covenant
There are several explanations for the origin of the festival. Does it commemorate the entrance of the Ark to Ethiopia or to Axum? Another explanation is it commemorates the triumph over a pagan god who faced the Ark. Or is it the restoration of the Ark to the Israelites?
Even at Hidar Tsion the original Ark is not taken out. On this day the Tabot, a replica of the original Ark, is taken out of the Makdas, the holy of holiest, from both Maryam of Tsion churches and presented to the faithful. Processions, prayers, and chanting accompany this event. Many thousands of pilgrims from all over Ethiopia will travel to Axum to witness this celebration at least once in their life.
The original Ark of the Covenant is kept in a small chapel on the compound of the Maryam of Tsion churches and never taken out.